The imperative of structuring your organisation for fundraising

Charities with income over $500,000 have a far better chance of survival than their smaller cousins, says Jim Datson, FINZ Fellow and tutor of the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand governance professional development programme. Jim has performed an indepth analysis of the Charities Services register data which reveals a staggering 10,000 charities sit on the fence when it comes to survival. And anecdotal evidence suggests there is a correlation between charity income and board proficiency.

Institutional readiness starts at the top

It is trustee boards that set the charity’s mission, appoint its top team, and oversee its actions. Trustees are fundamental to charities’ ability to survive and thrive. In the community sector, the onus for sound oversight and good practice lies entirely within the board itself.

Fundraising Institute of New Zealand, acting CEO, Sheridan Bruce says “Boards must be more engaged in creating impact and sustaining improvement within their organisations, as well as fulfilling the basic official functions. Boards need to focus on what makes them effective, and whether they have the will, ability and capacity to drive impact. The reward for better governance is a better charity—and ultimately a stronger, more sustainable organisation for the people and causes it serves, which is what it’s all about, after all”.

Checklist for fundraising organisational readiness

Skills audit of the Trustees

  • Take a fresh look at the board, qualities and competences of the board members
  • Do these fit with your vision and mission and skills required?
  • Relationships, marketing, fundraising, well connected in the community, politically, etc
  • Who do we have, who do we need to have, who needs to retire


Where are we going – where do we want to be, what will it look like, what will it feel like?

  • Clarity of mission, vision, strategic objectives, route map to get there
  • Is this a plan and vision the board own, can work with, understand


Values – Agreement of values

  • What makes us different, what do we care about? Part of our DNA,
  • Getting ourselves campaign ready


Consultation with key stakeholders

  • Touch points, what can others offer; advice, connections, learnings,
  • The community, volunteers, staff etc for points of reference
  • Managing expectations, no surprises policy


Clear understanding of timescales and resources

  • Realistic, not optimistic, keeping focused


Campaign structure

  • Make sure the trip wires and measures are in place,
  • Fleet of foot, roles, accountability, responsibilities, adaptable, decisions,
  • Before, during and after ..


Key messages

  • Case for support, why, what, to whom, the ask,
  • Paint the picture of the situation we are trying to change - the problem
  • What we do: the history, the situation, the evidence and substantiations
  • How donors can assist to create a shared outcome
  • Short, long cases for support depending on target audience
  • Internal vs external messaging, collateral etc
  • Urgency



  • Trustees, staff, volunteers and supporters may need training
  • Consider training in trustee meetings, staff meetings, webinars, short courses,
  • FINZ training, mentoring
  • We all need to learn to grow


Have a balanced and integrated funding strategy

A balanced and integrated funding strategy; from cultivating supporters, volunteers and donors, engaging funders and business and collaborating with a wider community, is the life blood of an organisation and will go a long way to ensure sustainability.

Recognising the various fundraising practices for their worth and being innovative with emerging practices will ensure a varied portfolio of income over time. Non grant financing such as crowd funding and social investment can provide feel good factors for investors as well cash injections. In a low interest world, this form of commitment can attract new donors and enable activity which may otherwise not take place. Adoption campaigns and symbolic gestures may also provide operating income which is difficult to fund without a robust annual campaign. For instance, donors adopting an athlete for a specific donation may cover costs of insurance, salaries, storage or security. And symbolic gestures such as ‘buying’ equipment or uniforms can provide cash as well as immense pride and ‘ownership’ for donors.

Knowing and valuing your organisation’s worth and place in the eco-system, having trustees, management, staff, artists and volunteers all understanding and supporting the mission and vision will help provide a sound foundation for sustainability. Consultation and collaboration with others in the eco-system can help solidify your position and leverage opportunities. And as we know, fundraising takes time so clear understandings of practices, resources, timescales, roles and responsibilities will help with the ‘no surprises’ policy!


I have worked with Jim Datson at FINZ. Jim is a FINZ Fellow and operates the Periscope Project. Get in touch with Jim for advice and benchmarking of your charity's position and performance in the New Zealand market. 

The imperative of structuring your organisation for fundraising

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